There is no ‘one-size fits all’ technology for a fleet of OSVs; rather, owners must consider their business drivers and choose the right digital solution
Caterpillar marine digital general manager Jim Newman had some strong words of advice for OSV owners that are embarking on transforming their businesses through digitalisation. Speaking at the Annual Offshore Support Journal Conference, Awards, and Exhibition in London in February, Mr Newman said: “Technology is about what is attainable and valuable to your business today. It’s not about what’s shiny and new.”
He told delegates: “Business drivers are the keys to selecting the technology solutions. The technologies already exist to achieving your goals. It’s about picking the right one.”
Mr Newman explained that technologies such as telematics, machine learning, physics- and engineering-based analytics and condition-based maintenance can all be applied to help drive maintenance decisions, increase fuel and energy efficiency, inform decision making, reduce unplanned maintenance and risks and enable fleet management.
Telematic solutions provide remote access to data, reports and diagnostics on a fleet, allowing vessel owners to interpret the information and decide on a course of action.
Analytics provide analysis and actionable condition-driven recommendations, based on transformed data.
Machine learning uses artificial intelligence to automate data analysis. Systems learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.
“[Owners] need to be asking themselves, ‘What business outcomes are keeping me awake at night?’” said Mr Newman. Owners need to bear these business outcomes in mind to select the right technologies for their organisation. They also need to bear in mind that in order to attain the maximum business value from certain technologies, they may need large amounts of historical data.
“Machine learning assumes that you have vast amounts of data,” said Mr Newman. “How many of you intentionally let your assets fail in order that you could compile asset failure data?” he asked delegates. “To do these super-advanced calculations, you are required to know that. How do you get that?”
He said one way to generate that kind of data would be to collaborate with another OSV owner. “If you want to drive costs out of those assets, it means you might have to share data with a competitor,” said Mr Newman. “The combined data sets from the two companies might allow you to take advantage of these super-predictive capabilities.”
“If you are not comfortable sharing information with a competitor, it might mean that the application is not right for you,” he said.
He continued: “Most people think Caterpillar as a good ‘iron’ company. We deliver great engines, but that is not going to be enough to deliver the value you need.” He explained the way to do that is to offer owners greater visibility into how their assets are operating and give expert advice.
As an example, Mr Newman discussed how Caterpillar had assisted an owner of a new hybrid vessel. The owner had been concerned with the fuel bill, saying that the hybrid vessel was costing more to operate than a conventional diesel-powered vessel.
The data told a different story. It showed that one captain operated the vessel exactly as instructed and “his fuel savings were immense,” said Mr Newman. “The other captain did not trust the system.” Instead of operating the vessel in electric mode in transit, the captain used his large diesel engines in hot standby the entire time. This resulted in a fuel consumption 37% higher than the other captain.
Through its data analysis, Caterpillar identified that by changing the operational profile of the equipment and captains, the owner could achieve 8% savings on fuel and 76% on annual maintenance per vessel.